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What?s for lunch?Belgian Endive

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December 3, 2007

Today, I had one of those can’t-tear-yourself-away-from-the-computer mornings that left me at my desk around 12:30 feeling…ravenous. When I get this way, I’m way too impatient to slap together a sandwich. I usually just go to the kitchen, grab something filling I can eat with my fingers (slice of bread, bowl of nuts, handful of cookies, chocolate bar…) that won’t get all over the computer keyboard. This time, I grabbed two Belgian endives from the crisper and came back to work. Long about the third or fourth leaf, I realized I’d hit on the perfect desktop veggie.

Endives are a cold-weather crop, grown in dark rooms from a variety of chicory roots. The dark keeps the tulip-shaped heads pale and tender. Endives’ flavor is pleasantly bitter and goes really well with any types of cheese, nuts, and citrus. (One of my favorite winter salads is a combination of chopped endive, Swiss cheese cubes, walnuts, and grapefruit segments.) And all you have to do is trim the bottom of a couple of endives to have a plateful of petal-like leaves that are the ideal crudité—no peeling or slicing required.

I’d love to say that I did up my endive leaves in some gourmet fashion—arranged them in a flower around a bowl of dip or scooped a spoonful of soft cheese or flavored hummus in the base of each, but no. I chomped them down plain. They did the job easing those hunger pangs so I could get back to work—or rather, not really have to get up from work at all.

—Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor